Neither of us are scientists, but we’re pretty sure that any data collected along the lines of “what do you think of when you think about travel in Europe?” would show that train travel is at the top of the list. And why wouldn’t it be? It’s typically pretty cheap and it’s super efficient. Sure, airplanes travel faster than trains, who’s going to argue that? On the other hand, airports tend to be on the outskirts of a city or maybe in a different city entirely (hello, London, Chicago, New York etc….), whereas train stations are usually deep in the center of town. Many is the time we have walked into a train station, straight to the platform and on to the train; you can’t even come up with a cute analogy for what happens in airports or how long it takes. And at the end of the journey, you just walk off the train. Most times you can be on the curb and hailing a cab within two minutes, and the cab ride probably isn’t all that long because, again, you are in the center of town. We love it. And so, this day starting off with a train from Rome to Venice was a pleasure.
Italy’s main train line, Trenitalia, is well-organized, efficient, on-time, and affordable. In the past we sprang for 1st class/ tier tickets on the long route between Rome and Venice, but this time decided to go “tourist” aka 2nd class. (The tier names change from time to time.) It was perfect. Aside from the fact that you can’t choose the direction that your seats face relative to travel (towards or away) you have the option to book in a 2-seater or share a table with others and which side of the car you prefer (close to the bathroom or doors may make a difference for you). It’s all fairly clear on their website. And the earlier you book, the better the fare. One small warning – when they say “non-refundable” they totes mean it. Twice now since we have moved to Europe we’ve had a hiccup in our travel that necessitated a change. Twice, Trentitalia agents have expressed what seemed to be genuine sympathy and did (*#&@-all about changing our tickets. Fair’s fair, it said so on the ticket but still, be aware.
There are luggage racks at the entrance for larger pieces, and overhead racks for backpacks, duffel and shopping bags, and carry-on sized roller bags. On a very crowded train people put their large pieces in the aisle, making for a crowded feeling. Longer trains often have a cafe or bar car selling simple sandwiches, snacks, drinks and, of course, cafe. It’s all very clean, and generally quiet.
Our arrival in Venice tickled us, because while we had been to Venice a couple times already we’d always been either in a rush, or sick, or in the dark, or a combination of those things. This was the first time we got to walk out of the train station and just take in the city, in the sunshine, with nowhere to be. It was lovely. We’ll probably spend a lot of time in the next few blog posts trying to explain what is so great about Venice, but it really boils down to a variant of “the Braga effect” that we’ve described before. The water and the boats and the lack of cars and the peculiar architecture all go into the stew of the city, and either the flavor knocks your socks off or it doesn’t. For us? Sock-free all day, baybeee.
Due to reasons (long story but uninteresting, and if you think about some of the stories we’ve bothered to write down in the past you should know how seriously we mean this) we were staying in an actual hotel, not tucked in the armpit but actually in a nice central location. The Hotel Ai Reali is a lovely place just a few minutes walk from the Rialto Bridge and also St. Mark’s Square. One thing we’re starting to get through our skulls is that hotels in major European cities are prepared to charge you quite a lot of money for quite small rooms. I suppose the logic is that this is how they built places hundreds of years ago and … well, tough nuggets. It happened to us in Dublin and it happened to us here. Lovely place, great service, good breakfast, but ye gods and little fishes the room was petite. All in all though, they still get a modest thumbs up for overall value proposition.
Our dinner that evening was a bit of a celebration, a place we’d intended to enjoy back in October: Do Fiorni. In its present form, the restaurant dates from the ’70s, but it has been a favorite of Venetians and visitors for centuries, going back to the early days of the Venetian Republic when it started life as a bakery. This vast space covers nearly a block, but still seems intimate because of its many rooms. The menu presents traditional Venetian cuisine and includes numerous dishes highlighting seafood, which comes directly from the lagoon and the Adriatic Sea.
We chose it because it was entirely furnished to look like a British Pullman.
Right down to the luggage racks! (We sat in the table to the right of the door, which was never opened. Quite cozy.) Layers of linens, heavy eating utensils, an extensive menu . . . it was lovely.
Even better, the food was excellent. However, as a testament to how tired we were after a long day of traveling and re-orienting ourselves in a new city, we cannot for the lives of us remember exactly what we ate. In fact, we have cleared memories of the people that we were sitting next to, a father-daughter or May-December situation where they both stayed on their cell phones for a wildly inappropriate portion of the night, and who must have dropped a hefty check given the number of individual cocktails we saw delivered over the course of the evening. Yowza. But the food itself? Total blank.